By Pinky Khoabane
The Democratic Alliance (DA), whose only goal is to protect white privilege and have for the past ten years or so, had the help of former President Jacob Zuma as the bogeyman, is imploding. The man who kept them busy and helped them gain relevance through court cases, marches, and extensive media coverage has left them stranded. He’s not there anymore.
Even as they sacked their Capetown Mayor Patricia De Lille today, they had to raise Zuma’s name in order to stay relevant. “In much the same way as Jacob Zuma, she wants her day in Court, but sets up barriers to getting there” a DA Twitter post read.
De Lille says her problems started when she raised the question of transformation in the City. Of course the DA will argue otherwise but there have been many stories which point to the fact that there have been battles over which tenders would be given to who.
Ultimately, the fight in the DA is about a rightwing faction in the party which resists transforming the DA to a party that should be seen to be serving the interests of all citizens. In their view, using Black leaders only as a front while maintaining the unequal society that South Africa is today, is good enough. Theirs is a reflection of white South Africa in general – the reluctance to transform in order to bring-in those who have been left out of the system – economic, social, political and cultural – for the past three centuries.
Despite twenty-four years into democracy, Black South Africans remain marginalised and this is due in large part, to whites simply refusing to share in the economy of this country. There’s the very painful truth that the Stellenbosch mafia – that small group of Afrikaaners whose links to the Broedebond made them benefit immensely during apartheid – are South Africa’s biggest beneficiaries today. People like Johann Rupert, Christo Wiese and all the other multi-billionaires have become richer in democratic South Africa. And the reason is that they have not only ensured that a small group of Black elite became paper billionaires but they have mastered the art of beating the policies which were meant to empower the Black majority. And so they know how to beat BEE through fronting, denying new entrants financial resources, pricing and preventing new entrants from entering the procurement supply chain.
Post Zuma-era, the DA has been limping from one disaster to another with no clear strategy of what to do. How to position themselves for a party which can address the challenges of inequality, poverty and unemployment. It’s been the water crisis which has exposed the shambolic management of an issue they knew about a decade or more ago; it’s been the power struggles over positions; and the inequality in Cape Town has resurfaced even though it has always been there and had been kept out of the glare of the media while the party fought a bigger issue of a man who was seen as collapsing the country. Apart from the De Lille saga, racism in the party constantly rears its head – whether its disagreements over the party’s policies on BEE or affirmative action or Western Cape Helen Zille’s racist remarks or the land issue – this is a party that has struggled to deal with racism. The latest is an uproar over party leader Mmusi Maimane’s comments at a Freedom Day rally where he said white privilege and poverty need to be addressed. There are reports that some in the top leadership were angered by his remarks. But this is the problem with a party which no longer knows what exactly it stands for or pretends not to know and in the process is giving out confused messages. Maimane’s remarks are simply basic – to negate them and cause tension over them is so clear about what the DA stands for – that it will protect white privilege at all costs with no regard for the Black people who have helped grow the party.
And so on one hand some in its leadership will reject the existence of white privilege but on the other, will attempt to usurp ANC’s leaders and use them on their posters as it did during the local elections of 2016 when it used Mandela’s face and voice in a radio advert. In a surprise move, last month it commemorated the late Chris Hani’s death – a communist. You simply cant espouse Mandela’s views while refusing to denounce racism and admonish those who speak about the need to address the structural effects of racism.
And so, in perhaps what is a real test for the power the DA holds in the Western Cape, it has over some time now, harangued Patricia De Lille, a former member of the Pan African Congress (PAC) and unionist, and eventually pushed her out of the party.
She’s not going quietly. She’s going to court on Friday to challenge the party’s decision to rescind her membership. She has promised to expose a whole lot of people. It will be dirty.
Whatever happens to De Lille, the truth about the DA is that its strategy of protecting white supremacy is not sustainable. It must choose to remain a small white party or be genuine about change.